Queen of Prince Rupert - Inside Passage and Queen Charlotte Islands


Trip: Route 10 Port Hardy to Prince Rupert, Route 11 Prince Rupert to Skidegate, Route 26 Skidegate to Alliford Bay and back to Skidegate, Route 11 Skidegate to Prince Rupert, Route 10 Prince Rupert to Port Hardy stopping at Klemtu Shearwater and Bella Bella.

Date: October 29th to November1st 2008

Objective of Trip: To ride the Queen of Prince Rupert on the inside passage in her native setting.


This article was written and photographed by Nick Berben.


Day 3:

I awoke the next morning when we were about a ½ hour from Skidegate, and was promptly told by the others that I missed out on a lot of fun in the extremely rough seas in Hecate Strait. We had a quick breakfast (breakfast bunwich, of course), and disembarked after ensuring our gear was stored away in lockers. My first impression of the Queen Charlotte Islands was exactly what I was expecting: fogged in mountains, endless west coast drizzle, and even though it was about 8:00 in the morning, it was still pitch dark. We checked in right away for our return trip, and bought tickets for our round trip on the Kwuna. While we waited for the Kwuna to show up, it started to get light. I hadn’t been this far north for a few years, and I forgot how fast the sun goes up and down.

The Kwuna came in, and did her usual, rather crude docking procedure. For those who don’t know, there’s no ramp structure at Skidegate, rather a wall and a concrete ramp much like a boat launch. There’s a large ramp on the ship that’s dropped into the water, and then the ship pushes the ramp up the concrete. The whole process of docking, unloading and loading 20-someodd cars takes about 5 minutes. We boarded, and explored the deck a bit, before settling in at the railing to get some photos of the QPR. It would be one of the only opportunities we would get to get exterior photos of her, in anything that resembles daylight.

When we got to Alliford Bay, we discovered it was the crew’s break time, so we were asked to leave the ship and wait on shore, in the bus-stop-style shelter. In the shelter we ran into another ex-resident of the islands, who was on her way back to Prince Rupert after visiting with friends. She was interested in why we were just doing a trip on the ferry, but understood our “fixation” with the QPR. She didn’t have very nice things to say about the Northern Adventure, either. We got back on the Kwuna, and this time, as we had explored the decks enough on the way over, we parked ourselves in the little lounge. We noticed there were a lot of names carved into the wooden window sill; with dates ranging all the way back to when the ship was constructed.

When we got back to Skidegate, we didn’t have long to wait until we were allowed to board our faithful ship again. We went straight to the cafeteria, to get a little snack. We were greeted by the chief steward, who told us she had a little surprise for us. She went back to the galley, and brought out a couple of pumpkins for us to carve. Apparently, they had gotten them in Prince Rupert the night before with the intention for the crew to carve them, but changed their minds and gave them to us. Of course, today was Halloween, so we got to work! Donella had to put her costume on to get in the mood, of course.

I particularly like the one with the Dogwood logo, but we had an issue with one of the flowers, as it had been cut a little too small and didn’t have enough support. Brett got to work with toothpicks, and remedied the situation. Of course, to cover all the bases, we had to “slugify” the pumpkin to bring it in line with current BCF colours.

As we were carving the pumpkins, we had a great time talking to the catering staff, and a lot of the other crew members who popped in to see what we were doing. Captain Bouchard came in and promised another bridge tour when the weather cleared up a bit, as the water had gotten pretty darn rough by this point.

When we had finished carving the pumpkins, I went outside because the sun was shining and the weather had cleared up really nicely, although the wind was still building. I ran into an older Haida man on the stern who lived on the islands, but was going to visit friends in Prince Rupert (I think I’ve heard this before…?). He had grown up on the islands, and told many stories about exploring and becoming lost on the backroads and trails that riddle the islands. He had a number of interesting bear encounter stories, too.

For pretty much the remainder of this leg of the trip, I spent my time between outside at the bow, and in the cafeteria and gift shop talking with the crew.

And some people took the opportunity to have a nap.

I had a fun time on the bow, with Brett, watching the waves both to get good photos of spray over the bow, and to prevent us from getting soaked. My camera got pretty wet at one point so I had to go inside and dry it off, but it still works!

We arrived in Prince Rupert around 7:00 that evening, and had to endure yet another wait at the Prince Rupert terminal. I think this was the worst part of the trip, as we had 5 hours to wait before our departure south, and there wasn’t an AMHS ship to watch to occupy us. I used the opportunity to open one of the books I had bought for the trip (The Long Way Round, by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman) for the first time. Scott did some Photoshop work on his photos with his laptop, and Captain Bouchard came and chatted for a bit, so we passed the time OK. Next time though, I think I’d spring for a cab into town to do some exploring there while we wait.

Finally, we were able to board the boat for the final time. We retrieved our baggage from the lockers, claimed chairs in the forward lounge, since nobody had been able to get a cabin, and set about exploring the ship again, meeting new faces and saying hi to old ones. As we were preparing to leave Prince Rupert, we ran into no other than Gary Coons (NDP Ferry Critic) in the gift shop. Gary was on his way south to Klemtu, as a visit to the remote community in his constituency. I enjoyed talking with him about the direction BC Ferries is heading, and how we think it should be treated (our opinions differ on that somewhat, but are united in that things are not good the way they are). We also got talking about the events surrounding the Queen of the North sinking, and how he got into a spot of trouble for being in Hartley Bay, when all the media and officials were in Prince Rupert. Considering I don’t have a very good opinion of politicians in general (and that is based on my personal experience in the community, not media and external opinions), I quite liked him. It would take a bit more research of course, but if he was a candidate in my riding, I would probably give him my vote.

At some point during all of this, I was paged over the PA and told I had a cabin if I wanted it. Of course I took it, and had another night with a real bed to sleep in! I went to bed around 1:30, and slept extremely well, as the seas were smooth sailing through the inside passage.